A Fifth-Century Teaching on the Holy Spirit

From Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (d. 444). It contains good examples of how to recognize the Spirit’s activities in our lives. Check it out.

“The water that I shall give you will become in you a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life.” This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, if produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each as the Spirit wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of the Spirit’s action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous.

The Spirit makes one a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the  body, trains another for martyrdom. This action is different in different people but the Spirit is always the same. “In each person,” Scripture says, “the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.”

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. The Spirit is not felt as a burden, for the Spirit is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through that one, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of those who come out of darkness into the sunshine and enables them to see clearly things they could not discern before, so light floods the souls of those counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables them to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.

–Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Catechesis 16 1

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